Gurman Singh started out as an underground stunt biker. Images: Gurman Singh
Gurman Singh’s father once tried to convince him to put aside his passion for stunt biking. He wanted his son to join the family business, making ceiling fans. Singh refused. “Who knows about your business?" he said. "When I go outside, the entire world knows me.”Singh, 24, earned his reputation by starting out as an underground stunt biker—a sport often under the scanner for its association with crimes and fatal accidents. Even parents of stuntmen have gone to jail for it. Singh, however, has steadily worked his way up in the entertainment industry, appearing in around 20 music videos for stars such as Baadshah and Yo Yo Honey Singh. He’s performed stunts in popular songs like Vroom Vroom, Driving Slow and Chaska. In one of his videos, Singh performs a stoppie on a Royal Enfield Bullet with a man sitting on the front tire. “Nobody in Delhi can do this stunt on a Bullet except me,” he claimed when I met him recently.
The young man with a chiselled jaw, handsome face and bulging biceps also runs a gym in Delhi’s Vishnu Garden to pay the bills. He is every inch a West Delhi boy, with a tattoo of one of his own stunts on his chest. “If you just ask anyone [in the neighbourhood] about me, they’d leave you at my doorstep,” he told us. Online too, Singh has 47,800 followers. Girls send him fan videos and proposals, and people post selfies they’ve clicked with him. “When I leave home, I see young boys performing stunts on their bicycles to impress me,” he said.
Singh began stunting on his bicycle on his way to school in 5th Standard. He graduated to his friends’ bikes while bunking tuition classes, and sharpened his skills on his father’s scooter whenever he was sent out to groceries. “I’d always get late due to stunts,” he said. “If there were any dents on the scooter, I’d kick it down outside our home, to put the blame on a jealous neighbour.”After he finished high school, Singh’s parents got him his own Pulsar 180, which he modified for stunts, earning their wrath in the process. “They only began to support me after I won some competitions. The only thing they asked me was not to take unnecessary risks,” Singh said.It wasn’t just parents he had to contend with. Singh and his friends have been chased by police countless times. “We didn’t give a shit. They neither had the riding skills, nor bikes powerful enough to pursue us,” Singh said. “We took them around in circles and tired them out.”
Once, the cops tried to arrest him during a performance to an audience of over 200 people in an open area in Tilak Nagar. “A cop came and chased us on his 100 cc bike. As we made our way out, there were three or four police jeeps and 10-20 cops blocking the road. We left our bikes and ran away on foot.”“The logic was that it’s easier, and costs less to get a bike out from a police station than a whole person. Anyone with papers of the bike can get it out.” At other times, they made friends with the local cops; a friendship eased with a little money or a bottle of beer. “We often helped them catch other stunt bikers,” he said.Singh has now outgrown those days of “fearlessness” and “unnecessary risks”. He takes police permission before his stunts. “I only go out in my car,” he said. “If I go out on bike, the sun will darken my skin.”But while foreign stunt bikers get big brand sponsorship, it’s very difficult to be seen as anything but a criminal in India. “People think of us like crazy loonies, like we have a deathwish,” Singh said.
He was inspired to continue trying when he met Baadshah during the shooting of “Vroom Vroom”. “A boy came and invited me to a vanity car. When I entered it, I saw him. I tried to act normal and told my heart: “Ok. It’s only Baadshah.” He was already impressed by my stunts on social media. I told him about my struggle as a stunt biker. He consoled me by saying that when he started there was no career in India as a rap artist.”
When he met Diljeet Dosanjh at a party, Singh took out his G-shock watch as a gift to the Bollywood star. Dosanjh told him, “You gave me your watch, so put mine on.” The return gift—a costly Armani timepiece—is his most prized possession. “I have had offers from boys from Punjabi Bagh for Rs. 5-6 lakhs for it, but I won’t part with it,” Singh said.Even with career on the ascendant, the road isn’t very smooth. Singh told me he has to deal with insecure friends and intense rivalries from others riders, who he says sometimes take credit for his variations. “Some want me to find work for them, others want me to take them to the shoots.” Once, his bike was found burned while was standing outside his house. “I still don’t know how it happened or who burned it. I got it repaired and sold it for a pittance.”People “don’t know how difficult it is to follow your dreams, taking risks, investing your own money in it and being motivated while at it,” Singh said. He’s out to prove his doubters wrong.Follow Zeyad Masroor Khan on Twitter .